A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and function of dreams are not fully understood. Although they have been a topic of scientific, philosophical and religious interest throughout recorded history. Dream interpretation is the attempt at drawing meaning from dreams and searching for an underlying message. The scientific study of dreams is called oneirology.

Rapid Eye Movement

Dreams mainly occur in the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep when brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake. REM sleep is revealed by continuous movements of the eyes during sleep. At times, dreams occur during other stages of sleep. However, these dreams tends to be much less vivid or memorable. The length of a dream can vary, they may last for a few seconds, or approximately 20-30 minutes. People are more likely to remember the dream if they are awakened during the REM phrase. The average person has three to five dreams at night and some may have up to seven. However, most dream are immediately forgotten. During a full eight-four night sleep, most dreams occur in the typical two hours of REM. Dreams related to work-life experience are associated with REM activity, which suggests that emotional memory processing takes place in REM sleep.

Babies spend almost half of their sleep dreaming, while the elderly spend less than a fifth. Blind people dream in other senses, especially if they lost their sight before the age of seven.


Dream interpretation can be a result of subjective ideas and experiences. One study found that most people believe that ” their dreams reveal meaning hidden truths”. In one study conducted in the United States, South Korea and India, they found that 74% of Indians, 65% of South Korea and 56% of Americans believed their dreams content provided them with meaningful insight into their unconscious beliefs and desires.

The history of dream interpretation

Going back around 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia, the earliest recorded dreams were documented on clay tablets. In the Roman and Greek periods, people believed that dreams were messages sent differently from one or more deities, from deceased people, and that they were the predictors of the future. Then there were cultures that practiced dream incubation, their intention being to cultivate dreams of prophecy.


A nightmare is an unpleasant dream that can cause a strong negative emotional response from the mind. Typically fear or horror, but also despair, anxiety and great sadness. The dream may contain situations of danger, discomfort, psychological or physical terror. Sufferers usually awaken in a state of distress and may be unable to return to sleep for a prolonged period of time. Therapy for recurring nightmares (often associated with post-traumatic stress disorder) can include imaging alternative scenarios that could begin at each step of the dream.

Do dreams have a deeper meaning?

A surprising number of people believe that the answer to this question is yes. According to a poll conducted, 43% of Americans believe that dreams reveal unconscious desires and wishes. While most modern theories of dreams would suggest that the answer is no, this hasn’t stopped interpreters and analysis from publishing a whole host of dream dictionaries that purport to identify what these common dream themes and symbols really mean.